Part of the Agrytech Program, Berytech organized a panel discussion during HORECA 2018 titled Startups, Innovations and Disruptions in the Agri-Food Sector discussing trends, needs and innovations in the agri-food value chain in the region, as well as how this sector is innovating and embracing such innovations to stay competitive and attract young talents from different backgrounds to move it forward.

The discussion rounded panelists Nadine El-Khoury Kadi, COO Robinson Agri; Jamil Corbani, CEO Green Studios; Lucien Kazzi, Managing Director Teknologix; and Rani Azzi, Vineyard Manager – Assistant Technical Director Chateau Kefraya, and moderated by Ramy Boujawdeh, Deputy General Manager Berytech.

Disruption through technology and engineering
Boujawdeh launched the panel with the fact  that the agri-food value chain is seeing a lot of disruption through technology and engineering. New technologies, such as remote sensing, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, for more precision agriculture are playing a major role worldwide to shape the sector. He prompted the panelists to explain how technology is playing a role in their respective businesses.

With the different smart agri-solutions that Green Studios offers, Corbani stated that their mission is to encourage people from different backgrounds to go back into agriculture by offering solutions that simplify the process. Their solutions include green walls, vertical gardens and green buildings that use an integrated smart system to maintain them.

In his turn, Kazzi explained how Teknologix is specialized in smart factory solutions, implementing IoT and big data analytics in agriculture, “What we really need is a transparent flow of information between the field and the end-user. We need this transparency to understand what is happening to our food from farm to fork.”

Kadi recalled how Robinson Agri started 50 years ago in innovating in green houses, “We realized that innovation is the main drive of the industry. We started in irrigation because without smart irrigation we cannot move forward.  Our objective is to turn the grower into an entrepreneur and each entrepreneur into a grower.”

Azzi, who manages the largest connected plot of vineyards in Lebanon with Chateau Kefraya, explained how the wine-making industry and wine itself is considered a traditional product yet technology is helping improve both the process and the product. “To make a wine of good quality you need to take good care of the vineyards. We use an IoT solution with sensors in the vineyards to understand the microclimate of the soils. It allows us to better manage 3000 hectares of land seamlessly. We also use aerial imagery to analyze the strengths of the shoots. The information we have also helps us analyze the plots that will end up giving us higher quality of grapes.

New job skills and foundation knowledge
Following the focus on technology to modernize the agri-food sector, Boujawdeh commented on how all this requires new job skills, and foundation knowledge that is not only linked to agriculture and sciences but also to engineering disciplines and computer science. His final question to the panelists was: “If you have the chance to speak to fresh graduates with entrepreneurial interest, what message would you convey to them about the opportunity in the sector regionally and the advantages that the Agrytech Program is giving them?

Kadi: “Agrytech is not only providing opportunities for young entrepreneurs, it is also giving a much needed boost to the agriculture sector in Lebanon. I advise young people to believe in Lebanon and in the Lebanese agriculture and food sector. Each one of you is an added value to the country.

Kazzi: “We are witnessing a revolution in the agri-food industry. We have trouble finding jobs because we are looking in the wrong direction, we need to look more into technical skills. I want to thank Agrytech for coming up with ideas that are out of the box for a sector that has been neglected for decades. The world is in a craze to invest in technology and the agrifood business is still a virgin market with needs and opportunities. Agrytech is the the right platform to start with. Innovate, create, optimize we can move the sector forward faster than we are doing now.”

Azzi: “Exporting innovation and technology can give us a high added value. I recommend engineers who have solutions or ideas to go ahead and apply to the Agrytech Accelerator because it provides a dynamic environment that exposes you to new technologies.

Learn more about the Agrytech Program and the opportunities it is providing here.